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Constructing a Cloud Communications Program

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Deploying a Cloud Communications Program Requires Comprehensive Planning

As the business world expands and grows increasingly competitive, decision-makers are seeking communication technologies that can meet multiple emerging needs, including the ability to support a remote workforce and cut unnecessary IT expenses. Because traditional offerings cannot necessarily meet all of these demands simultaneously, executives are pursuing cloud-based services, which often meet the current and prospective needs of companies.

Unlike traditional land line platforms, hosted PBX solutions are scalable to meet changing needs and generally cost less, allowing executives to pursue other mission-critical objectives without worrying about constricting the budget. However, enterprises cannot simply launch a cloud phone system and expect to reap the financial and operational rewards the following day. Decision-makers need to plan ahead and build a structured approach to the technology, according to a new report by Frost & Sullivan.

Analysts highlighted how cloud VoIP and unified communications are gaining momentum because they often require less overhead and minimize risks without jeopardizing their ability to support anytime connectivity. These benefits, which often outweigh any advantages provided by older solutions, are just a few of the reasons why enterprises are launching cloud collaboration strategies.

"There are certain factors that typically trigger the evaluation of new communications solutions and, potentially, the decision to move to hosted communications," said Elka Popova, unified communications program director for Frost & Sullivan in North America.

Eliminating the reliance on old phone systems is often one of the main reasons organizations are pursuing innovative cloud offerings, as newer, shinier technologies often promise benefits that conventional platforms never even imagined, analysts noted. Expanding this point further, experts said that dropping antiquated offerings allows them to improve business continuity and disaster recovery programs, as advanced services are often more reliable and experience fewer outages than traditional models. Furthermore, the cloud requires less input from internal staff, as the tools are managed off-site.

Building a Structured Plan

In addition to improving operations in general, companies often seek the cloud to gain a competitive advantage, as the hosted services allow organizations to reduce expenses, improve user experience and augment the way the workforce currently carries out mission-critical tasks. In many cases, these opportunities will give firms an edge over rival enterprises that are still leveraging old-school solutions and not experiencing any of the same benefits.

Yet, businesses that want to experience the full potential of cloud communications need to take the time to build a comprehensive plan that takes existing assets, current practices and long-term goals into account, Frost & Sullivan reported.

"Once businesses have a good grasp of their needs, objectives and existing assets, they must assess available solutions and providers using a set of carefully selected and very stringent criteria," Popova said. "Most businesses begin their due diligence process with a feature/functionality comparison. For a more holistic assessment, however, they should also consider ease of use and management; networking and endpoint requirements; total cost of ownership; service quality and reliability; and security and regulatory compliance."

A Data Center Knowledge report highlighted that virtually every cloud initiative, regardless of its intent, requires decision-makers to assess their options and determine which cloud model is right for them. In general, there are three types of clouds: public, private and hybrid. Public offerings mean that everything is hosted, which puts management and maintenance responsibilities on the third party. While this is generally the most cost-effective method, executives must evaluate security and whether they can see their business phone system being controlled by an external party.

In most cases, companies opt to incorporate their communication tools in a private or hybrid platform. The former model hosts equipment either on-site or off-site but is managed by an internal IT department. Hybrid initiatives are generally some mixture of public and private environments, depending on an organization's specific needs.

Data Center Knowledge noted that choosing the right model is one of the initial stages of any cloud project. This is especially important for communication initiatives, as migrating office phone systems to an unmonitored or insecure environment can have a significant impact on how effective those tools will be in the long run.

Frost & Sullivan reported echoed this sentiment, noting that integration with existing cloud tools or other prospective platforms will also be important. By building a comprehensive adoption plan, organizations of all sizes will likely be able to navigate their cloud communications projects without encountering too many challenges.

As the cloud computing landscape as a whole expands and matures, decision-makers need to assess whether implementing a cloud phone system will deliver any significant performance, cost or security benefits to their organizations. Because many of these questions will result in a "yes," businesses should consider establishing a plan for how they can convert their old communications strategies into newer and more efficient programs through the cloud.